Whether your goal is to make animated movies, TV shows or commercials, 21st century technology makes creating animation easier than ever before. Even so, talent, experience and skill determine whether your studio is the next Pixar or whether it crashes and burns. Working in the business is a good way to prepare for running your own studio.
Skill and Knowledge
Whether you plan to use state-of-the-art software or old-school, stop-motion animation, you need to know how to use the technology. Creativity is also important: Animated films need a story line -- even commercials often have one -- a visual style and usually dialog or narration. Working in an established studio can teach you the nuts and bolts of creating animation. It also gives you a chance to see how animated films are conceived, made, edited and marketed.
If you're talented enough to do everything -- animation, design, writing -- you may be able to start as a one-man shop. If not, look for people who have the skills and talents you lack. Studio experience can give you a good start on networking with other professionals. "Computer Graphics World" recommends that new studios rely on contract employees until the company is established and the cash flow is steady. If you hire full-time employees from the start, you may have to cut them when money gets tight. Animation is a small world, and word may spread you're an unreliable employer if you cut your workforce at the first sign of trouble.
Decide before you start your studio what sort of animation technology you want to use. Some studios still employ stop-motion animation rather than going digital. This may reduce your equipment costs, but stop-motion work is slower and more difficult than using a computer. If you want top-flight tech and your budget won't stretch that far, try looking for companies and organizations willing to rent out tech and studio space, such as Albuquerque's WESST Enterprise Center. Pixar says on its website that technology is only a tool: Ultimately it's your skill and talent that determine your success.
Look for clients who can use the kind of work you want to do. If, for example, you want to create a satirical cartoon show, submit your idea to networks that run that kind of programming. You can create a demo reel to sell yourself to potential customers. Blue Sky Studios says on its website that the company won its first client on the strength of a one-frame test image. Miguel Hernandez of the animation company Grumo Media told the Animation Orbit website that he got started by mailing sample films to companies. The films showed he could use animation to showcase a potential client's equipment.
- Animation Apprentice: How Do You Start a Small Animation Business?
- Blue Sky Studios: Our Story
- Computer Graphics World: Starting a Small Studio
- Grumo Media: Running an Animation Studio by Grumo Media -- Interview by Animation Orbit
- Albuquerque Journal: Executive's Journal -- WESST's Digital Studio Provides Tech Tools
- Forbes: 'The Boxtrolls' and Why It's Crazy to Do Stop-Motion Animation
- Pixar: Career FAQs
- Animation World: Finding a Niche
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.